This past week I sent my brother a text on his birthday, "Happy Birthday! I hope you have a very special day."
To which he replied, "Thanks. Living the dream."
Hmmmmm. What does that mean?, I wondered. One man's dream, I realized, might look quite the opposite to this woman's. I suspect my brother was referring to the fact that his days are full. Full of children, after school activities, a challenging job he is gifted at, and various social, extended family, and community obligations. His days are simultaneously driven by schedules and fueled by a strong undercurrent of chaos. He is most definitely on a wild and crazy adventure, accompanied by four children and two dogs (in a suit and tie, mind you).
In comparison, my life is much slower and leaner. I like quiet days (in which I stay in my pajamas well into the late morning hours) periodically interspersed with social outings, recreating, and travel. I organize my life around routine and a relatively short to-do list. I could never imagine myself thriving, let alone surviving, with that kind of daily chaos. My idea of adventure is climbing a difficult mountain summit or seeing Old Crow Medicine Show at Red Rocks amphitheater outside of Denver (where the Colorado governor came on stage and cracked jokes about a "Rocky Mountain High"). And my four cats are proving to be all the dependents I have energy for. We are clearly living very different lives, fulfilling very different dreams.
The notion that there is one dream, the dream, suggests that one of us has it right and the other terribly wrong. Which is why I believe the phrase, "Living the dream," should be struck from the English vernacular. There are, it would seem to me, many ways to live a dream. A friend of mine shared her dream of owning a tiny house and a camper van so that she could have both rootedness and freedom. I agreed. This sounds divine. Another couple I know has dedicated the next five years of their lives scrimping and saving so they can eventually move to Australia. There are as many incarnations of living the dream as there are people on the planet.
I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert's book "Committed: A Love Story." In it, she wrestles with whether or not to marry Felipe, the man she meets during her travels to Indonesia (as chronicled in her earlier book "Eat, Pray, Love"). I enjoyed Gilbert's exploration of the historical and theological institution of marriage. And I was touched by her very dear, very sweet relationship with Felipe. Which is why I was saddened to read in the The New York Times that Elizabeth and Felipe are splitting up. So it would seem, through Gilbert's life, that our own vision of a dream life changes with time. What began as a steamy Balinese romance blossomed into a beautiful love story and has now come to an end. Over. Done. Finito. Perhaps there is wisdom in leaving room not only for other people's version of a dream life but also the possibility that our own will change with time and circumstance. What we desire today may not be what we need or want tomorrow. As for me and my brother, we're both living our dreams (at least for today).